ATHENS – Cyprus and Greece, which supported a European Union ban on Russian airlines as part of sanctions for the invasion of Ukraine said they won’t agree to bar visas for Russian tourists.
The prohibition request was made by Ukraine and saw some support in countries in the EU including Estonia, Finland, Latvia and Lithuania, but Germany opposed it, and now Greece and Cyprus do, said POLITICO.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that Russian President Vladimir Putin should be blamed for the war in Ukraine and not Russians although Russian tennis players were excluded from professional tournaments.
EU foreign ministers are expected to discuss the calls for a tourist ban at a meeting in Prague at the end of August, the news site said, also it seems dead in the water as the bloc requires consensus.
Cyprus, home to some 50,000 Russians and a big vacation spot for Russians, was reluctant to go along with the ban on Russian airlinesand Cypriot Foreign Ministry General-Secretary Kornelios Korneliou said the visa block is wrong.
“We believe in people-to-people contacts and even Turkish nationals are granted visas by the Cypriot authorities, so we don’t consider that measure has any value for Russians,” he said.
That was in reference to the Greek-Cypriot side of the island, which is a member of the European Union, allowing Turks to visit even though the northern third has been occupied by Turkish-Cypriots since 1974 invasions.
Most of the Russian community on Cyprus live in Limassol, a city of 237,000 on the southern coast and Russians accounted for 25 percent of total tourist arrivals in the island before the war, the site added.
“We shouldn’t prevent these communities from coming into contact with families and friends,” Korneliou added. “The main weapon is European unity and our partners should respect the sensitivities of others on this issue.”
There is strong support in Greece as well for Russia, the countries sharing the Orthodox faith, although Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ backing of Ukraine and supplying weapons drew Putin’s wrath.
Since Russians can’t fly into Greece they are going to Serbia and then arriving from there, it was reported, but a visa ban would prevent even that and shut them out from the 27 member states.
Turkey, which wants to join the EU but refused to go along with sanctions and is allowing Russian airlines, has benefited at the cost of Greece and Cyprus, which want it to stop there and would veto any visa ban attempt, it was said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy earlier this month dismissed the idea that tourism visas should stay in place to protect people fleeing persecution, the report added.
“There are people who really need protection, who are persecuted in Russia, may even be killed, and therefore they should receive help from the civilized world,” he said. “These are well-known legal mechanisms — through refugee status, asylum requests, and other opportunities to help and support.”
“This should not apply to the rest of Russian citizens in Europe, tourism, entertainment, business affairs,” he added.